iPad Buying Guide: Which One is Right for You?

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With four different models in four sizes and prices ranging from $329 to $1,229, there are plenty of iPad options to choose from. That's a good thing, but how do you decide which one to buy? Use our handy iPad buying guide to get the right Apple slate for your needs and budget.

ipad comparison

iPad Models Compared

The iPad lineup is made up of three families: the iPad Pro, the iPad mini and the regular, 9.7-inch iPad. But as you drill down to the individual models, you'll find plenty of variety in specs, features and price. Here's a quick breakdown.

  iPad Pro
12.9-inch
iPad Pro
10.5-inch
iPad iPad mini 4
Best For Laptop Replacement, Professional Artists Note-Taking, Light Productivity Media Consumption, Gaming Reading, Email, Social Media, Light Gaming
Starting
Price
$799 $649 $329 $399
Screen 12.9 inches
(2732 x 2048)
10.5 inches
(2224 x 1668)
9.7 inches
(2048 x 1536)

7.9 inches
(2048 x 1536)

Battery Life  10:04  13:55   12:59 9:23 
Processor A10X A10X A9 A8
Storage (GB) 64, 256, 512 64, 256, 512 32, 128 128
Cameras
(Rear / Front)
12 MP, 7MP 12 MP, 7MP 8 MP, 1.2 MP 8 MP. 1.2 MP
Video
Recording
4K 4K 1080p 1080p
Color
Options
Silver, Space Gray, Gold Silver, Space Gray, Gold, Rose Gold Silver, Space Gray, Gold Silver, Space Gray, Gold
Touch ID Yes Yes Yes Yes
Pencil
Supported
Yes Yes No No
Dimensions 12 x 8.68 x 0.27 inches 9.8 x 6.8 x 0.24 inches 9.4 x 6.6 x 0.29 inches  7.9 x 5.3 x 0.29 inches 
Weight 1.53 pounds 1.05
pounds 
1.03 pounds  0.73 pounds

Common Features

All iPads provide access to more than 1 million apps optimized for the big screen, which is far more than what Android or Windows devices offer. You can also expect a high-quality aluminum unibody design and a bright and crisp display.

The tablets all come with iOS 10, the latest version of Apple's mobile OS. Key features include a redesigned music player, richer notifications, a better looking news app, more messaging customizations and a robust maps app, which suggests locations of interest along your route.

This fall, iOS 11 will arrive and make the iPad an even more productive device with significant improvements that should enable better multitasking. Those upgrades include a Files app for organizing your documents and projects, a Dock that makes iOS feel more like macOS and the ability to drag and drop text, photos and files.

Also note that all iPad models can be ordered with 4G LTE capability, which allows you to get online when you're out of Wi-Fi range. You'll pay $139 more than you would for the Wi-Fi-only version, plus the cost of whatever monthly data plan you sign up for.

iPad

Simply called the "iPad," this 9.7-inch slate is the most affordable Apple tablet, with a starting price of just $329. Despite its lower price, the iPad has plenty of premium specs, including a 2048 x 1536 retina display, a speedy A9 processor and dual 8-MP / 1.2-MP cameras. It comes in Silver, Space Gray and Gold colors in either 32 or 128GB capacity. The iPad also offers the second-longest battery life of the bunch, lasting 12 hours and 59 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test.

Best For: Because of its relatively low price and generous screen size, the iPad is a great choice for media consumption, gaming, social media and some light productivity (email, note taking without a pen). Though the iPad mini 4 is a better size for small hands, many parents will prefer the iPad's lower price when choosing a slate for their kids. College students on a budget will also find this model appealing. 

Apple iPad (2017) Review »
From $329.00
12.9-inch iPad Pro

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro delivers a big and beautiful display, fast performance and long battery life, but it's best for creative pros. The Apple Pencil (sold separately for $99) delivers awesome precision, and the A10X processor can handle anything you throw at it. If you add the $169 Smart Keyboard, you've got a 2-in-1 that might be able to rival your laptop. 

Best For: This behemoth is large enough to replace a laptop, if you pair it with the keyboard. It also provides the largest canvas for professional artists and video editors to do their work.

Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch Review »
From $799.00
10.5-inch iPad Pro

The 10.5-inch iPad Pro offers the same beautiful display, power and support for the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard as its 12.9-inch big brother. The key differences are a more affordable $649 starting price, a Rose Gold option, around 8 ounces of weight and more than 3 hours of additional battery life.

Best For: If you need to take a lot of notes or require a tablet for business purposes -- editing and showing presentations, clipboard use, etc -- the 10.5-inch iPad Pro offers the best balance between portability and productivity.

New iPad Pro Hands-on: Can It Finally Replace a Laptop? »
From $649.00
iPad mini 4

If you're looking for a more purse-friendly tablet with a stunning screen, the iPad mini 4 may be the device for you. It features the same pixel resolution as the larger iPad model on a smaller, 7.9-inch display. It also includes the same 8-MP and 1.2-MP cameras found in the 9.7-inch iPad, but its more compact size may be more suitable for small or childlike hands

Best For: If you like to read on the couch, in bed or on the go, the mini 4 is a great size for books, especially comic books. Its relatively small screen makes it easy to type quick social media posts or send off emails, during one handed use or while standing up. The mini 4 is the best size for kids, but parents may prefer to get the less-expensive iPad 9.7-inch. 

Author Bio
Henry T. Casey
Henry T. Casey,
After graduating from Bard College a B.A. in Literature, Henry T. Casey worked in publishing and product development at Rizzoli and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, respectively. Henry joined Tom's Guide and LAPTOP having written for The Content Strategist, Tech Radar and Patek Philippe International Magazine. He divides his free time between going to live concerts, listening to too many podcasts, and mastering his cold brew coffee process. Content rules everything around him.
Henry T. Casey, on
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11 comments
  • Logan Antus Says:

    I feel that the iPads that were shown for 2017 were exceptionally the best choices for their prices, productivity, and of course, its entertainment capabilities. I have had a good look at Youtube reviews on this, and I see people enjoying themselves with this device. I am hoping to get one of these devices soon, so this article guide has helped me a lot. With what this guide says, I am considering to get the iPad Pro (9.7 -Inch) for its capable performance in gaming, processing power, and how it can hold a strong battery life all the while even though applications can still run at high speeds.

  • Joe Bean Says:

    Oh, I just saw the new article from Andrew E. Freedman about the fact the new Ipad doesn't have laminated screen or anti-reflective coating. That is pretty bad. Likely something people won't be aware of when they buy, but when you look at the screen for a long time, it is much better to get anti-reflective coating.

  • Joe Bean Says:

    The new Ipad is a good budget option. The Air 2 is a bit nicer for its lightness, but the overall value is better with the new Ipad.

    Maybe Apple realizes they won't sell a lot of Ipads Pro at the price they charge for.

    The one that looks bad is the mini 4, which sounds even less appealing than before with its huge price tag for 16GB and slow processor when you get 32GB, bigger screen and faster cpu for less money with the new Ipad. Mini is sometimes hard to read. The mini 2 with 32GB was an ok budget option when all others where way too expensive. Now, the mini format is dead until they produce something better or cheaper.

    As for Ipad Pro being a laptop replacement? Not for me. It is still an Ipad with all its limitations, even if a fast one with a big screen. It is a great product, but not a laptop replacement for me and way too expensive. The new cheap Ipad is the way to go!

  • James Vazquez Says:

    The number of available apps in the Google Play Store surpassed 1 million apps in July 2013 and was most recently placed at 2.6 million apps in December 2016.

  • Mark I Lawmaster Says:

    Which of the iPads is right for me? NONE!!! Ill spend the same amount of money for about 2-3x the performance of a Samsung Galaxy Note pro 12.2 with the S Pen included. Apple can go suck apples! ;-) have a blessed day everyone. Just another friendly Android fanboy.

  • John O Says:

    The weight for the iPad Air 2 is incorrect.

  • simon Says:

    your specs are wrong - the pro 12 inch CANNOT have the same dimensions as the pro 9.7
    Also the weights are wrong

  • francois misson Says:

    I wout like to know the of the iPad 12.9 inches

  • angela burton Says:

    I have a ipad 9" or so an I need some information.i think it's 16gb.can u give information on it.

  • wade Says:

    No where can I find where to buy an Apple Wi-Fi 3g or 4g Ipad with true GPS capability by model number or store where they can be purchased. Approx cost would be nice. Any help is appreciated

  • Rahul Says:

    Personally I would prefer the iPad Air simply because of the low weight compared to previous models. The bezel is thin but iOS 7 is optimized to detect fingers obstructing the screen and still stay away from causing any problem. The iPad Mini with retina display is good but sometimes I feel it's just too small for the complete tablet experience.

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